John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Geez, what was I thinking?

Well, Netflix's algorithm thought I'd like it, despite me giving the previous entry a mediocre three stars (and I actually blogged at the time that I wasn't going to bother with this one).

And I think it was Peter Suderman who said he liked it in a Reason podcast episode.

So, I thought, hey maybe.

Well, maybe I was tired and maybe I had one too many glasses of wine, but at a certain point I fell asleep on the futon, … woke up for a bit, and hey, there's Halle Barry shooting people in the head with as much gusto as Wick… then fell asleep again … and woke up about a minute before the credits rolled.

I suppose the cinematography is good, the sets are excellent and imaginative, but it's all in service of a story that's the third try at the same old thing: a bunch of people are trying to kill John Wick, but he kills them instead. And I don't care.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A kids movie. But I'm not proud, I thought it was great and was fully entertained all the way through. And it's still streamable on Netflix, although I imagine it's destined for Disney+ eventually.

I didn't remember much about the previous movie, but that's OK. Video game characters Ralph (a big not-too-smart galoot with a heart of gold) and Vanellope (a tiny urchin with a passion for fast driving) have become fast friends. But Vanellope longs for something more … unpredictable … than racing around in her sugary-sweet driving game.

Without fully thinking things through, Ralph tries a solution that leads to possible disaster: Vanellope's game console is broken, and it's so old that fixing it is not economically feasible for the arcade owner. But without a repair, Vanellope is likely to become a gameless refugee, which is even worse than being bored.

But (see the title) there's a possible out via … the Internet! If somehow Ralph and Vanellope can scrape up enough real-world cash to buy the broken part on eBay.

Well, needless to say (again, see the title) Ralph manages to make things even worse.

Without spoilers, there are some really hilarious scenes and interactions here. And after you watch it, you might want to visit the IMDB trivia page to see all the jokes and Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Internet fan service you may have missed.

And, oh yeah, don't miss the mid-credits joke scene.

Logan Lucky

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

For the record, if you are fired by your employer for some bullshit reason, leaving you with few prospects, Pun Salad does not recommend hatching a detailed scheme to rip off the concession proceeds from the local NASCAR track.

On the other hand, watching a movie where that happens can be pretty enjoyable.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, to whom the above happens. He enlists the aid of brother Clyde (Kylo Ren) and together they rope in explosives expert Joe Bang (James Bond). Who happens to be in the slammer on an unrelated matter, so as a side-scheme, they have to break him out, do the thievery, and break him back in again with nobody at the pen noticing.

It's all a good deal of fun, a lot of comedy is involved. Jimmy's family (ex-wife and precocious/cute young daughter) are lovingly drawn. Hillary Swank shows up as an on-the-ball FBI agent late in the movie, and she's great too.

The Netflix algorithm said I'd like this and it was correct. I watched it on Amazon Prime, where it was free. I recommend it if you've got Amazon Prime and a couple hours to spare.

A Quiet Passion

[1.0 star] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. As sometimes happens, I didn't care for it. What I saw anyway, because I kept dozing off. Hey, maybe something happened during my naps. But I doubt it.

It's the story of Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst. from her schoolgirl days (where she's played by actress Emma Bell) to her older years (where she's played by Cynthia Nixon).

But nothing much actually happens besides people talking to one another. And doing so in the most affected and wooden way. It was impossible for me to imagine people talking to each other like that even in 19th century Massachusetts. People take offense, or not, at Emily's devastating quips that seem to have been made up hours in advance.

As the years go by—seemingly in real time—people move in and out of Emily's life through birth, death, marriage, war, occupation, etc. I didn't find anything to be that inherently interesting.

I never cared for Emily Dickinson's poetry either, sue me.

Ford v Ferrari

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So Pun Son and I had an itch to go see a Theater Movie, and this was kind of an ideal Guy Flick. Loud cars going very fast. Precisely one female speaking role. But it's the great Caitriona Balfe, who is so badass, she qualifies for Honorary Guy.

It's the story of how a offer by Ford to buy struggling Ferrari was insultingly spurned, causing Henry Ford II to decide that old man Enzo Ferrari needed to be humiliated by having a Ford-powered car win Le Mans. To do that, Carroll Shelby (played very well by Matt Damon) is enlisted by the Ford brass to design, build, and race said car.

Enter Ken Miles (played, also wonderfully by Batman himself, Christian Bale). He's a loose cannon, custom-made to irk the oleaginous Ford execs. But he's the best driver around, and also has a "feel" for what needs to be tweaked on a racing machine. Or pounded out with a sledgehammer.

The Shelby/Miles relationship is developed wonderfully well. And there's plenty of racing action. I think we'll see some Oscar nominations.

Last Modified 2019-12-02 3:40 PM EST


[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

You probably got the premise if you've heard anything about Yesterday at all, but if you haven't, I would recommend that you put this movie on your watch list right now, and otherwise stop reading. (Don't read the fine print on the DVD box over there on your right either.)

I think it would be more fun to watch it if you didn't know the premise ahead of time.

Still here? Well, fine. I knew the premise, and I had a good time anyway.

Jack is an aspiring songwriter/musician, but his writing talents are at best mediocre. He's decided to give up his aspirations when an inexplicable glitch in reality, paired with getting hit by a bus, catapults him across the universe (see what I did there) into a slightly altered reality. The big important change: the Beatles never existed.

Out of the hospital, Jack discovers this while playing "Yesterday" for his friends. Who are gobsmacked by his hitherto-unknown genius, and don't know what he's talking about when he tries to credit the Fab Four.

And after a number of comic missteps, his knowledge of old Beatles tunes paves his way to pop superstardom. But can he honestly coast on someone else's talent like that? And what about his loyal manager, Ellie, who has loved him for years? Will she be left behind in his old life?

OK, it's sentimental and gooey. But still…

If you get the DVD with the alternate ending, I suggest you check that out. I liked it better than the actual ending.


[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Well, I wanted to like this a lot better than I did. I wasn't a devotee of Keegan-Michael Key's and Jordan Peele's sketch series on Comedy Central, but what little I saw was pretty funny. And Jordan Peele has directed a couple of really good horror movies since this.

But this … was disappointing. Thanks to an opening scene, we meet Keanu, a cute kitty who is apparently the only survivor of a drug gang shootout. He makes his way to the doorstep of pothead Rell (Peele), who adopts him. Meanwhile middle-class family man Clarence (Key) is on his own as wife and kid go off somewhere… I forget the details, they don't matter anyway.

It turns out that Clarence has nothing better to do than hang with his cousin Rell. But their fun bro time is interrupted by Keanu getting catnapped. They must go track him down, and that involves them getting involved with the drug underground economy, of course posing as drug lords themselves…

I'm not saying that none of this is funny, a lot of it is. But a lot more of it involves various invocations of the f-word, usually shouted, as if that's funny in itself. The plot has a made-up-as-we-go-along quality.


[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A biopic of the early life of J. R. R. Tolkien. Spoiler: it ends with J. R. R. penning (literally penning) the first line of a certain book: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

But to get there was quite a journey. And I knew next to nothing about Tolkien's life, so it was pretty revelatory. As the movie begins, Daddy Tolkien is already dead. And Mom is on her way out herself. J. R. R. and his brother are remanded to the care of the local priest (Chief O'Brien himself, Colm Meaney). Who in turn places them in a home for orphans, where he J. R. R. meets (spoiler) the future Mrs. Tolkien. He also enrolls them in a good local school, where J. R. R. makes some lifelong friends, each with his own special artistic talent. (Tolkien himself has a natural way with languages, and that is the source of some fun scenes.)

Ah, but "lifelong" isn't that long for some in that era. Because World War I happens, and … well, it ain't pretty. The movie makes a powerful cinematographic argument that Tolkien's depiction of various hellish scenes in Lord of the Rings was "inspired" by his war experience.

The movie kept my attention, the acting is decent, the depiction of the era is spectacular.

I. T.

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. I think because she secretly loooves Pierce Brosnan.

Mr. B. plays Mike Regan, an entrepreneur with a burning idea: Uber for executive jets! So he's about to launch an IPO for his company implementing this idea, geared up for a stunning presentation when… oops, a computer glitch freezes everything up. But an intrepid intern, Patrick, gets on a terminal, defrosts everything with a few clicks and keystrokes, saving the day!

Mike is grateful. And ignores my shouted advice: "Patrick's a psycho, the only reason he was able to fix things so easily is because he planted the bug in the first place." Patrick is invited into Mike's home, which has a dismaying number of Internet-of-Things devices. Patrick gets the hots for Mike's cute teenage daughter.

Eventually Mike realizes what a dreadful person Patrick is. But Patrick already has his bots and viruses in place, and proceeds to make Mike's life a computerized hell. So a half-cyberspace, half-meatspace war ensues.

IT ex-professional opinion: Patrick's nefarious activities are farfetched, but not that farfetched. Definitely more sophisticated than your average Twitter-fouling bot army, or a Democrat-deceiving phishing attack, though.

Executive summary: watchable, but kind of a waste of time. Unless you have a burning need to hear an erstwhile James Bond drop numerous f-bombs. Then you should grab it immediately.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Hey, I laughed. I'm not proud of it, but…

This is a parody of the usual musician-movie. Conner (Andy Samberg) is the lead rapper of a wildly successful boy band, the Style Boyz. And, as these folks tend to do, he breaks up the band for a solo career. Which fails spectacularly and hilariously as the pretensions and egotism of music world denizens are ruthlessly mocked.

There are a lot of cameos by Andy Samberg's Saturday Night Live colleagues. Also a lot of cameos from actual musicians; I assume I would have recognized them if I were 40 years younger. (I did recognize Justin Timberlake, though, and he's very funny with a small part here.)

It's R-rated for "some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use". The graphic nudity involves, um, male genitalia. As part of a joke.

Wikipedia says it was a box-office bomb: "grossed $9 million, failing to meet its budget of $20 million, despite positive reviews from critics." Ah, well. Andy probably overestimated the appeal of graphic male nudity.